Monday, September 14, 2009

Sweatshop (2009)

The anemic state of Hollywood “horror” is distressing for hardcore fans, but don’t fret, dear readers, for I have the cure! This remedy to all that is stale and trite with mainstream horror might take a little digging on your part, but the results are incredible! No more watered down gore, no more clichéd and boring characters, no more rehashed, reimaged or re-whatever ideas and no more disappointment! This cure that I speak of, my fiends, is to simply ignore the latest sad attempt that passes for horror at the local Cineplex and to look upon your savior, independent horror! I’ve said it a million times before and I’ll keep on repeating it; indie horror is where it’s at!

A perfect example of this would be today’s indie horror splattacular, Sweatshop. Written by Ted Geoghegan and Stacy Davidson and directed by Davidson, Sweatshop is every horror fan’s dream (or nightmare, if you prefer) come true! Though its storyline follows a mostly basic slasher formula (with a few kinks thrown in, of course!), the engaging script, fast pacing, excellent acting, stunning sets, gorgeous cinematography AND out-of-this-world brutality make it more enjoyable than 95% of the so-called “horror” big studios are churning out these days.

The film starts with a bunch of hot goths and punks descending upon an abandoned warehouse to set the stage for what promises to be a wild evening. The decrepit and musty space is slowly turned into a decadent goth discotheque, complete with flashing lights, fog and wicked cool beats.

Yet, the “wild evening” takes a decidedly brutal turn as they realize that they’ve invaded the lair of a hulking killer called “The Beast” and his two vicious minions. One by one, the would-be partiers succumb to some brutal deaths at the hands of “The Beast”.

As mentioned before, one need only look to independent horror productions for their chills and thrills, because Sweatshop delivers both (and more) in blood-red spades! Writers Geoghegan and Davidson intended Sweatshop to be a sort of ‘80s throwback and an homage to the slashers of yore that most of us grew up on, but while it sticks to the familiar slasher formula the film has its own unique vision and never feels like its treading on sacred ground. Sure, it has the standard clichés of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll that act as a prelude to the nasty killings, but Sweatshop stands apart from the usual hack and slash movies by taking the time to actually develop its characters. They all had complex relationships, pasts and secrets with each other, making the film even more intriguing to watch. Plus, these are the kind of cool characters you’d want to hang out with! The dialogue is also witty, humorous and realistic, making it fun to watch the characters interacting.

Sweatshop has a pretty big cast and, surprisingly for an indie flick, it is made up of very talented actors. I loved the larger-than-life characters, including good ol’ boy Wade, played to sleazy perfection by Brent Himes, Wade’s horny punk brother Scottyboy, played by the gorgeous Peyton Wetzel, and the adorably perky Miko, played by the entrancing Julin. My favorite performance, though, has to be Jeremy Sumrall, who played “The Beast”. He wears a welding mask and we never see his face, so all his emotions were conveyed through body language…an amazing feat for an actor! But Sumrall played it perfectly, even infusing some regret and lament into “The Beast’s” rage-fueled kills. Yet, I must stress again that ALL of the actors did an amazing job and if I had the space I would mention each and every one of their names!

I really loved the look of the film as well. Co-writer and director Davidson also served as director of photography and his shots certainly pop! The colorful use of club lighting combined with the dark shadows of the derelict warehouse created some truly awesome shots. This is one film that I could tell from the very first shot that its cinematography would truly set it apart from other low-budget productions. Right away you could tell that Davidson and his crew knew exactly what they were doing! The film itself looks like it had a much higher budget, especially since all of the scenes are crisp, clear, well-lit, atmospheric and professional. Yet, Sweatshop still has that gritty, grimy quality that is so important to its storyline!

Also adding to the atmosphere was the spectacular score and soundtrack! Dwayne Cathey handled the evocative score of the film, while goth, EBM and industrial bands like Combichrist and Genitorturers provided the soundtrack. The result is absolute perfection as the dissonant score sets you up for the kills while the soundtrack perfectly captures the party-like mood.

And, then, of course, we have the gore. And such gore it is!! This film may have been made on a low budget, but you never could have guessed that from the stellar special effects it features! From a jaw-dropping scene where “The Beast” pulls the lower jaw from a poor screaming girl’s face to his brutal smashing and bashing of legs, heads, torsos, etc. with his humungous sledgehammer weapon he’s created from metal pipes and an anvil block (seriously, it must be seen to be believed!), I’d say the grue here would delight even the hardiest and most seasoned gorehounds!

Then there are “The Beast’s” minions, two disturbing creatures that are bloody, veiny and haven’t seen the sun in quite some time. The backstory on them and “The Beast” is never explained, but I was so awestruck by the sheer brutality of the kills that where they came from and how they came to be such vicious killers didn’t end up mattering much and this “not knowing” added to the scare factor. As for the ending, well, it’s a sight to behold! Remember how the main protagonists were setting up for a party? Well, their guests eventually arrive…just in time to be mashed to bits by “The Beast”! Hearty acclaim must go to the special and visual effects departments, because they did an amazing job with such a small budget and created some truly mind-blowing and extreme kills!

Sweatshop and independent movies of its ilk are the answer for those seeking solace from the soul-sucking productions big studios keep forcing down the throats of those hungry for horror. Even if Hollywood was producing decent genre films, Sweatshop would still be a cut above the rest. Sweatshop is a relentless, entertaining and downright FUN horror film that defies expectations and will undoubtedly be my choice for one of the best horror films of the year!

Buy on Amazon!

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